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4.1 Case identification for resettlement

Towards a diversity of methods for identifying cases for resettlement

The timely identification and referral of refugees for resettlement consideration is a shared responsibility among all UNHCR functional units. While individual offices will approach case identification for resettlement differently depending on context specific factors and the resettlement opportunities available, it is best practice to establish a diversity of case identification methodologies, including protection referrals, strategic use of proGres and making use of other relevant data (e.g. indicators for determining eligibility for assistance), as appropriate.

Case identification via internal referral

Case identification via internal referral requires continuous awareness raising among other functional units in the office about resettlement as a durable solution for refugees. Resettlement colleagues should further share information about resettlement priorities, submission categories and thresholds as well as available quotas for specific resettlement countries. Internal referral processes and coordination within the office should be continually improved and strengthened as part of the protection and solutions strategy. This includes ensuring relevant functional units include in their SOPs instructions on referring cases for resettlement as part of regular protection case management. Colleagues working in assistance activities, including cash-based assistance, should also be sensitized on referring cases for resettlement as a protection response and durable solution for refugees in need of financial assistance.

It is recommended to provide resettlement tools and/or guidance to other functional units in order to build and maintain the quality, consistency and suitability of cases referred internally for resettlement consideration.

Necessary supporting documentation (e.g. Medical Assessment Form, Best Interests Procedure) should, where possible, be prepared at the time of the referral and/or in advance of the Needs Assessment and Initial Review stage, according to SOPs. See Required documentation, processes or reviews in 4.3 The resettlement Needs Assessment and Initial Review.

To complete an internal referral:

1. Complete a Resettlement Consideration Referral Form, or equivalent offline form used in the operation. Provide general reason(s) for the referral, in accordance with data protection and privacy principles, including necessity and proportionality.

2. Create a Referral in proGres, recording only the minimum information required to execute the referral (e.g. “recommend to create a RST case for a Needs Assessment”), with Service Type = Resettlement.

3. Send the Resettlement Consideration Referral Form and the proGres Referral link securely by SharePoint Team sites or email to the designated focal point in the resettlement unit. See Sharing and storing digital files in 2.5 File management and record keeping for guidance on secure sharing of documents and information containing personal data.

In order to receive, process and communicate effectively on cases referred from other units, it is recommended to designate one or more focal points in the resettlement unit to handle referrals, who are then trained in managing sensitive information and protection issues, including those involving children, GBV survivors and LGBTIQ+ individuals.

Case identification via external referral

Important information on individual protection needs in the refugee community is often collected and stored by partners, including host governments. In such contexts, external referrals by other organizations, agencies and civil society actors may be the primary source of case referrals for resettlement. To facilitate and strengthen referral processes, UNHCR should continuously raise awareness with external partners on the resettlement submission category criteria and thresholds, strategic resettlement priorities and available quotas for specific resettlement countries. 

Some NGOs make direct referrals and/or resettlement submissions to resettlement countries. Where this is the case, UNHCR resettlement SOPs should include a coordination mechanism with NGOs carrying out direct referrals in order to maximize the collective protection impact, avoid duplication, and ensure accurate data on resettlement in proGres.

Depending on the size and structure of an operation and other context-specific considerations including capacity to effectively process external referrals, resettlement referrals (including self-referrals) may be channelled to:

  • the relevant functional unit in the office (e.g. child protection, GBV) for a preliminary assessment, before onward referral to the resettlement unit, as appropriate, or
  • the resettlement unit directly. The Needs Assessment and Initial Review stages of the resettlement process flow provide sufficient integrity safeguards for resettlement colleagues to handle referrals directly, where this is more efficient. In addition, certain types of referrals may be more appropriately handled by resettlement colleagues directly, for example, those based on family links and family unity.

Child protection partners referring a case for resettlement consideration should do so on the basis of a Best Interests Procedure, according to UNHCR’s BIP Guidelines. For guidance on the circumstances in which a Best Interests Assessment (BIA) or Best Interests Determination (BID) will be required for resettlement and who should conduct it, see 3.5 Children and Adolescents at Risk. See also resettlement Country Chapters to check specific resettlement country BID requirements.

Necessary supporting documentation (e.g. Medical Assessment Form, Best Interests Procedure) should, where possible, be prepared at the time of the referral and/or in advance of the Needs Assessment and Initial Review stage, according to SOPs. See Required documentation, processes or reviews in 4.3 The resettlement Needs Assessment and Initial Review.

Communication and feedback mechanisms on individual cases referred should be established and agreed upon between UNHCR and the referring actor, with due regard to UNHCR’s data protection requirements (see 2.3 Data protection in resettlement). Communication and feedback by UNHCR promote accountability and transparency and is especially important where the referring actor conducts counselling and handles information requests from concerned refugees. UNHCR offices should ensure timely case updates are provided to the referring partner to ensure refugees are informed of progress on their case. This also encourages partners to continue referring cases, while also improving the suitability of cases referred over time. 

Each operation should develop formal referral mechanisms for the purpose of receiving and communicating about external referrals, taking into account the following standards:

  • The referral mechanism should be authorized by the Accountable Officer for resettlement.
  • The roles and responsibilities of the referring party and UNHCR should be provided in writing.
  • Referrals should be done using an approved Resettlement Consideration Referral Form to ensure consistency in referral modality and information contained in the referral.
  • Trained focal points should be assigned to receive external referrals.  
  • Focal Points should be responsible for creating a Referral in proGres and forwarding the approved Referral Consideration Referral Form and any other documentation to the colleague assigned to conduct the Needs Assessment. The focal point may be provided with customized views in proGres to monitor Referrals.
  • Case status updates and feedback should be systematically provided by UNHCR to the referring actor. This helps partners to manage the expectations of refugees and leads to better results in terms of understanding of UNHCR’s resettlement process and the selection criteria of States, while encouraging partners to continue referring individuals facing protection risks for resettlement.

Case identification via self-referral

In line with the principle of Accountability to affected people, mechanisms should be developed to receive, assess and respond to self-referrals for resettlement. Mechanisms must be designed in view of local thresholds and capacity to meaningfully handle such referrals. See 2.4 Communication with communities about resettlement for guidance on feedback and response mechanisms.

Self-referrals should be recorded in the Referrals entity (type=external) in proGres, with explanation in comments that the individual has self-referred. This is irrespective of whether the case proceeds to Needs Assessment and the creation of a Resettlement Case.

Depending on the operational context, the referral system and the specific case:

  • The self-referral may be referred to the relevant functional unit for a preliminary assessment (e.g. child protection) before onward referral to resettlement colleagues, or directly to the resettlement unit for Needs Assessment; or
  • The Resettlement Case may be closed and a response communicated in a timely way to the concerned refugee(s), via the channel through which the referral was received, explaining why they cannot currently be prioritized for resettlement consideration.

Receiving and processing referrals

Upon receipt of a referral for resettlement consideration, the relevant focal point(s) in the resettlement unit completes the following actions, according to SOPs:

  • Conducts any preliminary inquiries or clarifications with the referring party, as necessary.
  • Verifies that the referred individual(s) are registered and search existing Resettlement Case data in proGres.
  • Documents receipt of the Referral in proGres and create a Resettlement Case (unless an active Resettlement Case already exists, or a previous referral has been considered with a negative recommendation already documented in the Resettlement Module).
  • Enters details of the Referral in the Case Details section of the Resettlement Case form, and assign a processing priority, according to SOPs.
  • Completes the Needs Assessment or assign to the relevant resettlement colleague.

Case identification using proGres

In order to use proGres as an effective tool for case identification, personal data stored there needs to be accurate and up to date. Family composition and other key data points should be regularly verified in a non-resettlement context, during continuous registration, case management and assistance distribution, and/ or via updates from external partners. This data is confirmed at Needs Assessment and Resettlement Interview.

ProGres is particularly well suited to the identification of cases for resettlement according to certain pre-defined criteria (e.g., date of arrival and country of origin), particularly in the context of group resettlement submissions. proGres allows the creation of locked lists based on specific criteria, which enable resettlement colleagues to contact refugees who are a priori eligible for a particular resettlement exercise, to determine interest in and suitability for resettlement consideration. It is generally discouraged to rely on specific needs data in proGres for case identification, given that this data can become rapidly outdated.  

ProGres also supports regular resettlement case identification in situations where internal and external referrals are low. It is, however, important, over the longer term, to work with functional units and partners on strengthening referral mechanisms to enhance the identification of cases for resettlement as part of the broader protection response.

ProGres is also useful as a source of additional information on individuals referred for resettlement consideration via internal or external referral mechanisms. Consulting personal data in proGres can, in this way, reinforce the referral, reveal issues to be clarified before proceeding, or even indicate that a refugee should not be prioritized for resettlement. This could be, for example, owing to polygamous marriage, child marriage, ongoing support for a complementary pathway or previous resettlement consideration.

Wherever possible, the registration data of individuals and their family members should be verified and continuously updated in a non-resettlement context. This precaution avoids raising expectations about resettlement while ensuring that biodata, personal characteristics and family relationships are accurate, complete and reliable before resettlement processing begins. Incomplete or inaccurate registration data is a common cause of resettlement processing inefficiencies.